South African Rocket League servers are here!

dfthaman, Co-owner of RLX

Early Friday morning, 10 November, the news broke – Psyonix had implemented South African servers in the latest patch. Nice shot! It came unexpectedly early – although we were hopeful to get servers after a Reddit comment by Devin, Psyonix’s Community Manager. I am pretty sure we are all excited as it came just in time for the upcoming holiday period. Calculated!

But what will the implications be for the future of Rocket League as an esport in South Africa? To help me answer these questions, I asked for the thoughts and opinions of a few of our influential esport community members – Elf_ZA, mOTHER, PaPa_Capes & Holden_ZA. Incoming!

This was such a big shock announcement (in a good way), that I have a feeling many people know exactly where they were and what they were doing at the time when the news broke. For some reason I woke up early that morning and then saw the messages from people breaking the news. Half-asleep I realised what happened and my excitement-levels shot through the roof.

Christian Massyn, aka mOTHER, who was the captain of OK|Dangerkids who won the recent LAN at the VS Gaming Championship at the rAge expo, had a similar experience- “It was a big shock seeing as there was no announcement beforehand. I just woke up that morning with a message from Lay-Z saying there are now SA servers. I literally ran to my computer and started updating the game”. Rick Thomas, aka Elf_ZA, was “very excited, surprised and glad that the developers looked at South Africa.” Says Elf: “We only expected servers to roll out in 2018 so this was a huge bonus. That day I couldn’t get done at work fast enough. I already had a day playing until 3AM in the morning.”

“…very excited, surprised and glad that the developers looked at South Africa.”

Indeed, many of us had long nights and early mornings playing with the beautiful green latency bars. It seems that the servers are based in Johannesburg and those with fibre optic internet connections in Gauteng can get latencies as low as 4ms. Others, like myself who are based in Cape Town, get around 44ms. Your latency will depend on where you live, the quality of your line, your ISP and various other factors.

So, what is different about playing with a latency that is at least 4 times lower than what it was on EU servers? Well, for starters, you can actually see what is happening. 50/50s now feel like 50/50s and there are no more weird impacts on car handling directly after collisions. Many people echo the sentiment that the game feels so much slower. I could attest to that in the beginning – in many high level games, people were whiffing easy aerial shots completely, as a big part of our game was based on predicting the ball’s movement in relation to the high latency. Marcaille Fransman, aka PaPa_Capes, argues that local servers will provide us with a fuller experience and less uncertainty because the latency is so much lower. If you want to know more about how it felt playing with 200ms ping – check out Magoo’s insightful article.

The Twitter announcement that took the Rocket Lague community by storm.

What are some other external advantages with having local servers? Elf_ZA says that the game will now grow even more. “We are a small community but with local servers we will draw more people in”. mOTHER reckons that the skills of players and quality of matches have already increased and is hopeful that local servers will motivate more South Africans to play the game.  That is true – it was something to behold that Friday how people started joining the Rocket League South Africa Discord server; some who didn’t even know that there was a local Rocket League scene. Already we are seeing some new talent in tournaments which bodes well for the future of Rocket League as an esport in South Africa.

Of course we need to be realistic and need to look at some of the challenges we will be facing with having local servers. There are some concerns about very high ranked players from EU abusing our servers to get easier games and rank up, or that people in South Africa will reach higher ranks easier although their skill level might not be on par with similarly ranked EU players.         Importantly, we are a small community and thus most of us know each other, but with many new people joining and some who are toxic, there is bound to be some friction. It is the duty of the community members to remind each other to be civil and respectful, and treat each other with dignity.

Furthermore, there is going to be a huge skill gap between the people who are buying the game now versus those who have put in thousands of hours already, as Elf_ZA points out. “Because the player-base is relatively small, these low and higher-end players could be matched into some casual playlists”, he rightly points out, which could be a rude awakening to those who are just starting out. Hopefully they try and learn from the seasoned players and hopefully the seasoned players don’t go “gg ez pz” on them. Lastly, long queue times for Ranked games are another concern. mOTHER and Elf_ZA share the experience of having to wait long to find matches around higher skill tiers as the servers are not yet very populated. We are confident though that as our scene grows the servers will get populated with players of all skill levels, which means queue times will decrease.

But what about the South African scene in general? According to PaPa_Capes, who shared his views in this Reddit-post, “local servers shows hope for local gaming – more and more games are getting local servers which could lead to more gaming titles taking us seriously as a gaming community.” He says there is now room for African organisers, communities and events to unite and grow the African scene as well. “In this day and age, unity is almost non-existent. Gaming encourages unity. Gaming doesn’t see race, weight, age or gender. It sees skill, passion, commitment and personality. We could definitely use this – as a community and as a country.”

He says that Psyonix has given us what we demanded and so now we have to support them and git gud at the game. So should we never touch EU servers again? PaPa_Capes says no. He agrees that the change is massive and at first playing again on that high ping will be terrible, but it is easier to find higher ranked games on EU servers which mean that is where we are most likely to play against better players than what we currently have in SA.

Finally we can now also play with those beautiful green latency bars

African Cyber Gaming League (ACGL) owner, Nick Holden, aka Holden_ZA, spoke highly of the Rocket League community and commended them on their efforts to get recognised and get local servers – “I have dealt with a wide variety of gaming groups throughout my career in gaming and I have to say that the Rocket League community stands out in their hunger and determination to receive recognition. The servers give the community part of what we need to keep Rocket League growing as an esport in this country and continent. As tournament hosts we know how frustrating it can be to play with lag, especially when your biggest heroes (international pro players) are playing overseas on low latency. Despite the inherent problems, the South African Rocket League community has stuck together, made noise on social media and asked constantly for a chance to play on servers – finally, it has come through. Without the core fan base we would not have servers today.”

That is very true – for a long time we have asked Psyonix time and time again (like this petition illustrate), because as a community we believed that local servers would improve our gaming experience and we also had trust in that, with the excellent track record of the developers, they would actually listen to our concerns. Hosting and playing in local tournaments by organisations such as ACGL, VS Gaming, RLX et cetera, will be a much more pleasant experience with local servers.

Holden_ZA also added, “From my side, it’s a big thank you to the community who pushed so hard to make it happen. It goes to show that persistence is key, and something that might be considered by the rest of the international community as a gaming standard means so much more to us. The introduction of local servers for the South African community is well deserved and we thank all those that made it happen.”

“The servers give the community part of what we need to keep Rocket League growing as an esport in this country and continent.”

Holden_ZA’s words were barely cold and he, ACGL, and MWEB GameZone announced one of the first big tournaments to make use of the local servers – the MWEB GameZone Master Series (MGSM) Championship with over R10 000 in prizes! You can read more about that and register here.

Thank you once again to the people who helped to get our message across to Psyonix and thank you to the awesome developers who implemented the servers.
These are exciting times and I wish everyone a happy stay and wonderful experience on the local servers.